Having done two large american start ups and onto my third small global start up, I’ve learned few things along the way. This is from my own experience of going through the drill and convincing the non Indian managers of importance of this learning.
1. India’s unique country model:
First thing to consider while entering any country is adopting a model that suits the way of business, its culture and customs. India can be an extremely challenging market and one must consider hiring a senior, experienced and ethical manager who has local market understanding, local connects and understanding of local rules of doing business. Companies should let this person choose his own team, support his business plan and remain committed to the market. Indian market is slow to start and companies must plan to scale and not to squeeze sales out of the market. No one understands the market better than the person who has been here. Many Indian’s have moved abroad and think that they understand the market, they are mistaken as market is changing rapidly and their model of success in mature market is a sure shot recipe for disaster in India.
2. Ethics & compliance:
Any company wanting to enter India must conduct a due diligence on person’s background. Companies must never be in a hurry to appoint some one and invest time in conducting a 360 degree referral from seniors, peers, customers, partners and most important his subordinates. Understanding of local laws, way the person conducted business in past and success in managing business process would be critical to building a long term brand. Initially it is the person’s personal brand that would help the company leverage its position. Many fast growing startups, typically on hire & fire mode, forget to put enough emphasis on hiring a stable local executive that has built a strong brand around him in India.
3. Invest to grow:
As mentioned earlier, India can be an extremely challenging market. Never ever try to squeeze quick sales, rather invest in building the business. Indian market takes time to adopt new technology and new initiatives. Companies must invest to scale and not look at quick business and judge the market by analyst reports of GDP growth, huge population and many billion dollar companies. Grow at a steady pace, learn the dynamics and invest with a minimum 3 year vision. Never be reactive and stay committed to the original plan. Companies would encounter many difficult situations and extremely challenging scenarios which they would not have experienced in any other market, listen to the person on ground and let him run the show.
4. Expectations mismatch:
Be prepared for over commitment and under delivery. Be it about investment’s, commitment of customers or even failed searches. Potential employees tend to decline offers at the last minute, customer commits to a deal and then chickens out at the last minute, negotiations are never ending and most important forecast is a hope cast. Be careful about what you expect from the market and what would you want to communicate to HQ.
5. Partner model:
Only model that works in India is the partner model. India is a geographically dispersed market, unlike most mature markets which are largely single city economies. India has multiple cities with individual economies far bigger than most other small countries. Most customer ask for local presence; local support and local coverage. It is practically impossible to build an army of people to cover such diverse market. Invest in building local partners with local connects and support. Invest in the partners and work with a philosophy to make them super successful.